Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie - Slice
I had never heard of tomato pie until we moved to South Carolina. I’ve heard people around here go on and on about how wonderful it is.  When we were in Charleston this summer, we saw tomato pie advertised at many different restaurants.  It peaked our curiosity. What is the deal with tomato pie?  So, when I started getting tomatoes from my garden (before the leaf-footed bugs destroyed my tomato plants), I made a tomato pie. I looked at half a dozen different recipes and most of them called for 1 cup of mayonnaise. Thinking about that amount of mayo makes me a little nauseous. I used 3/4 a cup of mayonnaise in my tomato pie and thought it was too much. In fact, my husband took two bites and refused to eat any more because the mayonnaise taste was overwhelming.  I didn’t hate the tomato pie, but I didn’t enjoy the mayonnaise topping either. I loved the flavor of the fresh tomatoes, onions, and basil in the pie crust, though. I think for our tastes, a simple topping of shredded mozzarella would have been perfect. I’ll give that a try next summer. If you like mayo, you might really like this savory pie just the way the recipe is written. I would love to hear your comments.

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

1 9-inch pie shell
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 large, ripe tomatoes, halved, cored, and roughly chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves (about 10 leaves), thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I used cheddar, but you could use a combination of cheddar and mozzarella or any other combination of cheeses you would like)
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Bake the pie shell in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until it becomes lightly golden brown.

Meanwhile, squeeze the juice out of the chopped tomatoes. You can do this with your hands or wrap the tomatoes in a clean kitchen towel and twist to remove the moisture.

Add the chopped onions to the baked pie shell. Top with the tomatoes and then sprinkled the basil over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the shredded cheese(s) and the mayonnaise. Spread the mixture over the tomatoes.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until lightly browned.

Caprese Salad with Yellow Pear Tomatoes and Bocconcini

IMG_2015 (640x480)

Despite the massive amount of rain we have gotten in the past few months, my yellow pear tomatoes are doing fairly well. Well enough that they are attracting dozens of leaf-footed bugs who are having their way with each other and my tomatoes.


I won’t even consider insecticides and have instead started an all-out assault on these relatives of the stink bug with gloved hands, squashing them to death between my thumb and forefinger. It’s brutal, but such is life.

So, back to the tomatoes. My yellow pear tomatoes are doing well and I’m getting a bunch off of the one plant I have. My basil is not doing so well, but I have enough to make one of my favorite summer dishes, caprese salad.

Caprese salads come in many forms, typically made with larger slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella with a leaf of basil sandwiched in between. The tiny balls of fresh mozzarella, also known as bocconcini, were on sale at my local Publix. You can usually find them in the deli area of the grocery store. They are so cute and perfect to pair with my sweet yellow pear tomatoes.

I’ve been on a balsamic reduction kick lately. OMG, it gets thick, syrupy, sweet, and the flavor is intensified. It’s amazing. I could drizzle it on everything. I especially like it on caprese salad (and it was pretty darn good on the zucchini caprese paninis I made last week. Sorry, no picture and no post). To make a balsamic reduction, I just pour balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until it reduces by at least half and coats the back of a spoon. When it cools down, it will thicken even more.

Caprese Salad with Yellow Pear Tomatoes and Bocconcini

This is not an exact recipe. Vary the amounts of ingredients according to need and preference.

yellow pear tomatoes (or other sweet cherry tomatoes), halved
bocconcini (or small balls of fresh mozzarella)
fresh basil leaves, torn into smaller pieces
olive oil
balsamic vinegar reduction (instructions above)
salt and pepper

Combine tomatoes, bocconcini, and fresh basil leaves in a serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction. Season to taste with salt (I use Kosher salt) and freshly ground black pepper.

Veggie Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce

My ranchero sauce is amazing, if I do say so myself.  It really accents the veggie enchiladas and make them incredibly delicious and downright addicting.  Luckily, they are pretty healthy and you can afford to have just one more.  : )  I based this veggie combination on the veggie enchiladas at Chuy’s in Austin, Texas.  By the way, I highly recommend eating at Chuy’s if you are ever in Austin.  They have great Tex-Mex at great prices.  The one located on Barton Springs Road, across from Zilker Park is my favorite.  Anywho, feel free to change up the veggie combination to stuff the enchiladas.  Be flexible and use what you have on hand.  Sometimes I add hominy or black olives to my mixture with tasty results.  You can also add cooked shredded chicken, if you eat meat.  The Ranchero Sauce is also excellent with eggs.  For Huevos Rancheros, fry an egg (don’t use a lot of oil) and add some of the sauce to the pan towards the end of cooking.  Heat the sauce through and serve the eggs and Ranchero sauce over a warm corn tortilla.

Veggie Enchiladas

1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1 serrano chile, veins and seeds removed and minced
4 ounces button or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 cup cooked potatoes, diced

hot oil
corn tortillas
pepper jack cheese, shredded
Ranchero sauce, warmed (recipe below)

For the enchilada filling, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil or vegetable oil over medium heat.  When the onions are tender, add the zucchini, yellow squash, corn, serranos, and mushrooms.  Continue to cook until the squash is tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes.  Add the fresh spinach and diced cooked potatoes to the mixture and cook until warmed through.  Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the enchiladas, quickly dip the corn tortillas in hot oil, being careful to not get them crisp.  Fill the softened tortillas with shredded pepper jack cheese and the veggie mixture.  Roll them up, place on a plate and top with the hot ranchero sauce.  Serve immediately.

My Ranchero Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups vegetable broth
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces tomato paste (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat.  Add the next 6 ingredients and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and tomato sauce and cook until sauce starts to thicken, stirring frequently. Taste and season the sauce with salt.  If you prefer a more “tomato-y” sauce, stir in the 4 ounces of tomato paste (1/2 a small can). Cook for about 15 more minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, you may add a little bit of water to thin it out.  Stir in cilantro.

Quick Spaghetti Sauce

This is another recipe I developed for my kids’ cooking class.  It’s a scaled down version of a sauce I have been making for years.  I just love this sauce.  The whole can of tomato paste really gives it a concentrated flavor, as if the sauce had been simmering for hours.  Sometimes I add anItalian herb blend from Penzey’s to the sauce.  This sauce freezes really well.

Quick Spaghetti Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions (about 1 small onion)
1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (diced if you like a chunky sauce)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
pinch black pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and the remaining ingredients.  Cook, stirring
occasionally, for about 5 more minutes, or until sauce is heated through.

Bulgur and Garbanzo Salad

From July 21, 2008:  On Saturday I made this whole grain salad to take to a party (that we ended up missing because of the horrible traffic on I-95). It’s a great no-cook summer salad. The bulgur wheat and garbanzos make a complete protein and are complemented with other traditional Mediterranean ingredients. Parsley can be used instead of cilantro.

Bulgur and Garbanzo Salad

1 cups raw bulgur
3/4 cup boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and diced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
4 oz. feta cheese, diced

In a bowl, pour boiling water over the raw bulgur. Let sit for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, garlic, ground mustard, cumin, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and pour dressing over the bulgur.

Mix the garbanzo beans, tomatoes, cucumber, and cilantro into the bulgur. Add the feta and chill for at least 1 hour to let flavors meld.

Portuguese-Inspired Vegetarian Sausage Soup

From December 30, 2007:  I am on a two week break from teaching and have been cooking like crazy. I feel like a real person again. It’s been perfect soup weather and so I have been making lots of soup. This is a yummy vegetarian soup that I based on a recipe I found that was chocked full of nasty, nitrates and preservatives filled, greasy meat sausage. I use Frieda’s brand Soyrizo. My only complaint is that it breaks down into little granules. It still tastes good, though. The only place I have been able to find vegetarian sausage is at the Super Wal-Mart here. You can add 1 teaspoon of aniseed to make this soup more authenic. Some chopped kale would be good in this too.

Portuguese-Inspired Vegetarian Sausage Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable broth
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (including juices)
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
1 package Soyrizo (discard plastic casing)
3/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced

In a large soup pot, saute the onions and celery in the olive oil over medium heat.  When they become tender, add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.  Add potatoes, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.  Then add the Soyrizo, black olives, and zucchini.  Cook 10 more minutes until potatoes and zucchini are tender.

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

This is a beautiful and yummy salad.  The recipe is basically a guide.  I don’t follow this recipe to a tee, ever.  I just start chopping and adding veggies.  The last time I made this, I didn’t have Kalamata olives, so I just added regular ol’ black olives.  I also added green bell pepper (diced).  I like to add some croutons to the salad for a little crunch.  The lemon-garlic dressing is a favorite of mine.

Greek Salad

romaine lettuce, cut into 1″ pieces
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and dicediced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/8 cup pepperocini peppers, stem removed, seeded, and chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Combine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onions, olives, pepperocinis, and feta cheese in large serving bowl.

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the vegetable mixture; toss until coated. Serve immediately.